When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and swept aside the old Star Wars expanded universe to create its own canon, there was plenty of outrage at the loss of such a swath of materials – ranging from the excellent to the completely nonsensical – to make way for a diluted re-do. But its latest entry makes good on so much of what’s come to pass since 2015.
Released this week, Rebecca Roanhorse’ Resistance Reborn is being sold to Star Wars fans, who’ve mostly stuck to the movies even in this new “it all matters” canonical era, as the stepping stone to next month’s climactic entry in the movie saga, The Rise of Skywalker. And on its base level, it is. There is setup for how our heroes go from The Last Jedi’s grand sacrifice to this final fight, and a major part of that narrative arc involves Poe Dameron going through a crisis of confidence over his actions in Rian Johnson’s complex, complicated middle chapter.
But Resistance Reborn is really a love letter to the Star Wars diehards who’ve read, loved, and come to enmesh themselves in the world of the franchise’s tie-in universe (in the old or rebooted formats). The people whose favorite characters are someone who was in one book or a comic miniseries a few years ago. Those who exult about how they’d die, not for Princess Leia, or Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Poe Dameron, but for a character with maybe (if they’re lucky) a line of dialogue in one of the films who then went on to become a major player in the comics, games, etc.
To put it in a reductive matter, this is the Avengers: Endgame of Star Wars tie-in media. But instead of Earth’s mightiest heroes, it’s the galaxy’s... well, not really mightiest, but dammit, they’re heroes.
It starts as a trickle, but as Resistance Reborn begins to lay out its premise – Leia and the crew of the Falcon, having found a temporary safe harbour on Twi’lek homeworld Ryloth, begin to slowly reach out to allies old and new they couldn’t contact on Crait – it becomes a gamut of familiar faces rushing onto the scene. It starts small, picking up a handful of old names from the original trilogy.
Wedge Antilles might be the most recognisable of them all, but there’s still a little flutter of joy when you turn a page and General Rieekan shows up, or a titter of laughter when Leia is re-introduced to the Dresselian saboteur Orrimaarko, who she can’t remember in the slightest despite having sat about three meters away from him during Return of the Jedi’s briefing aboard Home One. You might remember him as Prune Face because that’s what his action figure was called. This is the level of diehard dedication we’re talking about, and it’s delightful.
But what works the most about Resistance Reborn’s reunion-a-go-go is that it is not just a patting on the back for various characters from the movies – or even more specifically beyond that, not just its fellow novels in Del Rey’s ever-growing list of books. Yes, we’ve got Norra Wexley and her son Snap (Temmin, as he went by before he became Greg Grunberg) to represent the Aftermath books, or figures like Bloodline’s Ransolm Casterfo and Lost Stars’ Twi’lek pilot-turned-ambassador Yendor, who become crucial allies to the Resistance’s cause. But Resistance Reborn reaches wider – and in doing so feels like a satisfying love letter to every corner of what’s come so far in this new version of the Star Wars galaxy.
From Marvel’s comics, there are characters like Karé Kun and Suralinda Javos from Charles Soule, Phil Noto, and Angel Unzueta’s fabulous Poe Dameron comic (the former introduced briefly in the anthology novella Before the Awakening, but fleshed out more completely in Marvel’s work). From EA’s video games, we get Zay Versio, daughter of Iden, and Shriv the Duros from Battlefront II’s story campaign. There’s even an entire sequence set on Bracca, the planet made for the upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order, which feels less like an awkward tease for an upcoming product and more a scenario that actually makes sense for the story being told in Reborn. And, in an honourable callback to the Expanded Universe that came before it, Wedge’s return to action also brings with it his own former group of rough-and-ready rebel pilots and spies; it’s just that this time, instead of being called Wraith Squadron, they’re Phantom Squadron. No sign of Hohass Ekwesh yet, but still, it’s a start.
But again, besides just being excited by a lot of familiar names, what Resistance Reborn does with these characters is make them matter. They’re not just showing up via a convenient portal to take part in the last battle and then fading away into the background again five minutes later. As the book’s story develops and Leia sends her teams out across the galaxy on missions to acquire important information and supplies, they become the heroes of the novel. Poe and Finn might lead one of those missions – attending a thief’s auction to gain a list of Resistance sympathisers being targeted and imprisoned (or worse) by the First Order, but Suralinda becomes a driving force of it.
Iden may be gone by the time Battlefront II’s single story DLC is done, but Zay lives on.
Shriv becomes a focal character for several chapters in the back half as he leads his team to liberate junked New Republic ships to recreate the meagre beginnings of what will no doubt eventually become that glorious Resistance fleet in The Rise of Skywalker. Wedge and Norra leave their humble life on Akiva behind and become Resistance Reborn’s heart, a compelling contrast to the layers of self-doubt Poe Dameron has to work through in the wake of The Last Jedi’s bitter losses as they steel themselves to re-enter a fight they’d left behind. And that’s even before you start considering all the characters Resistance Reborn adds itself, like Yendor’s son Charth, or former Imperial turned taciturn warlord Tesa Nasz.
If you came to Resistance Reborn as a pile of factoids to be consumed and acknowledged like a Rise of Skywalker amuse-bouche, you might leave a little disappointed. You’ll get to see how worlds like Ryloth and Corellia are dealing with the tightening yoke of the First Order, sure, or the beginnings of how the Resistance goes from Crait to Ajan Kloss with a bit more than just what was left aboard the Millennium Falcon. You might get a shiver of informational glee seeing the origin story of that Blockade Runner briefly glimpsed in the trailers, but that’s about it. Not a lot really happens in Resistance Reborn beyond what the title pitch indicates in that regard. It puts its characters front and center instead – not just “important” ones like Poe, though he is a major narrative nexus – and in doing so becomes a joyful celebration for anyone who’s been following along with this likewise reborn expanded universe since 2014. It’s an immensely dramatic payoff to see characters brought from far and wide together to be the catalyst that paves the way for what’s to come.
By the end of the novel, when the rehabilitating Resistance scatters like embers on the wind, you can’t help but feel that a little bit of it is cynical; of course Poe, Finn, Rose, Connix, Leia, Chewie, and a handful of others are left to be the main unit we’ll see in The Rise of Skywalker. All these friends we’ve made along the way, new faces, familiar faces, friends from long ago – they’ve had their team-up, and now it’s time for them to go back into the ephemera of the galaxy. They’re unseen on screen, but suitably are the heroes of a tie-in novel that acts as a celebration of years of tie-ins that came before it. You have to leave the movie people for the movie.
Black Squadron looks to the future in Poe Dameron’s final issue, a scene that takes just hours before the events of Resistance Reborn’s opening.
But there’s also something rather beautiful about it. These heroes – Zay, Shriv, Karé, Norra, Phantoms and Black Aces, and yes, even a prune face – aren’t movie people, and the ones that technically are, are the unsung supporting and background heroes, characters with at most a page’s worth of dialogue between them in the original and sequel trilogies. They’re the everyday folks out there in the galaxy far, far away, doing the good work. A reminder that, as frustratingly insular as it can be at times, Star Wars always has been, and always will be about a galaxy so much larger than the Skywalker bloodline’s story. Their stories may intertwine at some points, but they’re the people whose stories live on across the stars, expanding this universe into something we can all read and play in and share a tiny little part of ourselves.
They’re the spark that lights the fire, and that fire shines so very brightly in Resistance Reborn.